Following an announcement by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that it will no longer keep files of reported UFO sightings, it has emerged after painstaking detective work that - in fact - it is no longer doing so.
The shock move by the MoD was revealed at the weekend by Blighty's foremost UFO expert and talking head, Dr David Clarke of Sheffield Hallam uni, after he obtained "a formerly secret MoD document" using the Freedom of Information Act.
This document was drafted at the time of the MoD decision last November to close its UFO desk - manned by a single case officer - and to cease keeping files of reported UFOs. Amazingly (to Dr Clarke at least) it appears that indeed this is being done: all UFO reports received by the MoD are nowadays answered with a form letter and then thrown in the bin after thirty days. The "Hotline" phone number no longer exists.
Meanwhile there has been a policy of transferring the existing, vast piles of filed reports to the National Archives, which then makes them public. Thus the MoD has managed to rid itself of a tiresome chore and some minor expense at a time when it has little cash to spare.
But Dr Clarke is understandably cross:
As I suspected all along, the closure of the UFO desk and the decision to transfer all remaining MoD files to The National Archives are linked ... by the end of the disclosure programme MoD will retain no further paperwork on UFOs.
The disclosure of this document makes it evident this is the endgame as far as the MoD are concerned.
But if MoD have learned anything from 50 years experience it should be that UFOs will simply not go away. I suspect that the next time a near-miss incident involving civil or military aircraft occurs, they will be forced to rethink this somewhat short-sighted policy.
Although he belongs to the "sceptic" wing of the UFO community, Dr Clarke plainly loves UFO files for their own sake and considers taxpayers' money well spent on collecting and filing them.
But there may be a tiny crumb of comfort for the doc and other frustrated UFO fanciers. They can no longer expect to while away pleasant hours trawling through vast MoD files and pestering hapless civil servants with FoI requests: but there will still be UFO files of a sort. The fabulous soaraway Sun, as everyone knows, has pledged to take on the task of running the nation's UFO files from the MoD.
We wish Dr Clarke all good fortune in his future - and no doubt extensive - dealings with the Currant Bun. ®